Coworking spaces, FabLabs and Maker Spaces have so far been predominantly found in large cities. But such "collaborative workspaces" are increasingly being established in rural areas, where they provide access to digital technologies and other work resources. A new EU-funded Innovative Training Network (ITN) is now studying the effects of such places. The IRS is involved with its research department "Dynamics of Economic Spaces".
Innovative Training Networks (ITN) within the framework of EU research funding aim to bring together research and practice on important issues for the future. This is done through the joint training of doctoral researchers: In each ITN, a cohort of doctoral researchers is trained both in research institutions and in thematically relevant practical organisations such as companies. The entire network is organised across several EU countries, and all doctoral researchers work at institutions outside their home country. Under the direction of Suntje Schmidt, the IRS research department "Dynamics of Economic Spaces" is involved in the Innovative Training Network "Exploring the Impacts of Collaborative Workspaces in Rural and Peripheral Areas in the EU", in short "CORAL", with two (of 15) doctoral positions.
The network examines commercial or non-profit-oriented projects that enable users to work individually or collaboratively on projects and provide both the technical infrastructure (fast internet, 3D printers) and an attractive ambience that promotes creativity. Such places are often found in cities, especially large cities. More recently, however, their potential for rural and peripheral regions has also been increasingly discussed. Here, they can support networked work in a way that goes beyond what is possible in a private home office, for example. In this way, it is hoped, rural depopulation can be avoided, and long-distance commuting can be reduced. Starting in January 2021, the CORAL network is now investigating the effects of collaborative places of creativity and knowledge work in rural peripheral areas in the EU. In addition, a contribution is being made to valorising these places for regional development.
Eight organisations from academia and practice are involved in CORAL. In addition to the IRS, these include the Pantion University of Athens, which coordinates the network, the Milan Polytechnic, the ESGCI Commercial School Paris, the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL) in Leipzig, the Saxony State Association of Cultural and Creative Industries, the Austrian cooperative Otelo, and the Impact Hub Vienna GmbH. The two research projects based at the IRS examine collaborative places and the spatio-temporal dynamics of their entrepreneurial ecosystems on the one hand, and critically question the role of collaborative workplaces as a regional development policy instrument on the other.